Blessed: The Pure In Heart - Matthew 5:1-2, 8
As Jesus has turned our world upside down, have you been feeling blessed or challenged during our sermon series so far? I have to admit that I have felt challenged quite a bit as I have worked on the sermons. Remember, as Jesus offered this message, it was not him telling people about being happy...too be declared blessed was to be declared privileged, well-off, or fortunate. That if the criteria Jesus mentions applies to you, you stand in a privileged status with God.
Those who are poor in spirit, having completely founded their identity in God instead of their accomplishments and their stuff, are privileged to find themselves already members of God's Kingdom.
Those mourn the condition of the world are well-off because they will find themselves comforted as God acts and wipes away their tears making everything right.
The meek are fortunate because as they pattern themselves after Jesus because they receive the promise that they will be citizens of the New Jerusalem.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed to know that as they work for building the kingdom of God, God will bring fruition to their efforts.
Those who are merciful are privilege because they know that the same mercy they show offers, God will bestow upon them.
Today, we may find that Jesus lays down his greatest challenge, as He says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
What does it mean for us to have a pure heart? Does it mean that our mind has to be free from any impure thought? Do we have to be better than Jimmy Carter, who infamously confessed, that while he had not committed the physical act of adultery, that he had sinned, for, "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times." Do we have to better this to be able to plan on seeing God one day? Has our former president put himself in the position in this admission of letting the world know that he will never have an audience with God? I certainly hope not. I hope this blessing means something more than whether or not any of us have ever had an impure thought, because if that's the case many of us, or better yet, all of us, will never stand in the presence of God.
"What do you mean, Preacher? I've never lusted after any woman that wasn't my wife, or any man who want my husband. I don't have any kind of nasty fantasies." That may be the case, my brothers and sisters, but we have to realize that impure thoughts are more than about sex. Impure thoughts are any thoughts out of sync with God. Have you ever thought about killing someone, have you ever hated someone, have you ever thought about some gossip you heard, have you ever thought about stealing, have you ever thought about lying? Impure thoughts are impure thought. So, with this in mind who’s going to see God? Like I said, though, aren't glad that this must mean something more?
When Jesus was talking about the pure in heart, He was echoing the Psalmist who wrote: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in this holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts…”[i] and “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.”[ii] My brothers and sisters, Jesus isn’t simply talking about whether or not we have had an impure thought or not, but whether or not our hearts have been completely given over to God. A pure heart is a heart that worships God alone.
The theme of a pure heart that is given completely and solely to God is echoed throughout the teaching of Jesus:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”[iii]
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and espies the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”[iv]
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”[v]
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You should love the Lord your God with all your hear, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”[vi]
“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead…Another said, I will follow you, Lord; but let first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”[vii]
“But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to [Jesus] and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sisters has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only ONE thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.’”[viii]
Jesus makes it perfectly clear, our focus, if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ, has to be God. To have a pure heart is to have a heart that is set and focused upon God before anything else. To try and divide our hearts up any other way, means that we have a broken or divided heart. And honestly, many of us suffer from divided hearts…
For some of us that focus may be like the rich young ruler Jesus encountered…it may be on our wealth or our jobs. We allow our jobs, careers, or bank accounts. How does this happen? I think of a conversation I had with a member of one of a congregation back East. If I have shared this with you before, please forgive me. This gentleman had not been in church since I had been pastor, but ended up in the hospital and I visited with him many times. The reason he had not been in church is he ran the local mini-mart. One day our conversation drifted to his lack of attendance in church and the store. He said, “You know, I could close the store for a couple of hours on Sunday morning so I could attend church, but I might lose customers.” Maybe it is not being away from church but compromising our beliefs in order to increase our profits, such as selling goods that we know are overpriced or items that lead people to lives contradictory to the Word of God. Hearts divided…
In Luke, Jesus tackles what may be one of the hardest things we have to face that we try to worship alongside God, our families and friends. Often, we allow family and friends to interfere with our devotion to God. Now, I am not talking about an emergency hospitalization, or having to help a loved one in their recovery from illness or surgery—taking care of them is ministry in and of itself. I’ll put it to you this way, if I had $100 for every time one of the following statements was used over the 18 years I have been in ministry, we could start building a family life center or remodel the narthex of the church. Here they are: “Preacher, I wasn’t at church today because a friend I hadn’t seen in twenty years was passing through town and it was the only time we could spend together;” “Preacher, I won’t be in worship because my parents/children/grandchildren/aunt/uncle/4th cousin twice removed are visiting, and they don’t go to church,” or, better yet, “they don’t have anything to wear to church.” (Of course my response to that is unless they are walking around your house naked, then they have something to wear to church.) Or, “Preacher, I can’t come to church because my family is in town, and I have to prepare lunch for them.” Hearts divided…
However, the most common thing we find ourselves worshipping other than God is what we see looking in the mirror. Ourselves… Have we ever heard someone say…actually, let’s be honest, have we ever said ourselves, even simply in our minds, “I didn’t get anything out of worship today;” or “I’m not staying for worship today because I don’t like the music being played or the fact we’re having communion again;” or “I’m not helping with children’s ministry because my kids are all grown;” or “I’m not going to church today because I had to work all week and I’m tired, I just want to sleep in;” or “If they are not going to do things my way, then I’m not going to support the ministry.” We could go on and on, but how many times do we factor what we do for God not based on what God is calling us to do, not based on what is happening in God’s church, but simply based on “how much each of us likes it.” Hearts divided…
Jesus calls us to have hearts that are pure…that are focused on God…not on money, not on friends and family, not on ourselves, not on anything but God…and those who have pure hearts, are promised to see God.
“But preacher, I thought all I had to do was accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and I would be going to heaven, and if I go to heaven, then I get to see God, right.” Well…right…if we surrender to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will see God…and many of us have the Savior thing down pat. We know we can’t save ourselves, we know that we are sinners saved by the Grace of God found in Jesus Christ…but we struggle with that “Lord” part of “Lord and Savior…”to surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord means putting Him first and foremost in our lives…that our relationship with Him and living the way He calls us to live is more important than anything else…it is loving God with all our hearts and souls and minds…it is living with a heart purely focused upon Christ alone.
The Good News is, my brothers and sisters, that if we realize today that our hearts have been broken…our hearts have been divided…our hearts have been impure…God offers His grace to us, right now, today…He is the ultimate heart surgeon…He will pour his grace in and create in us a clean heart, a pure heart, if we simply surrender our hearts to Him…and then we will find ourselves Blessed…knowing that we will one day see Him face to face.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.